Published with the Valley News Group May 20, 2021
Last week’s Pacific Palisades fire is a reminder that in the West Valley we need to be prepared for “Fire Season” all year round. I watched the Palisades fire very nervously over the weekend, and I am grateful to the professionals at LAFD who saved the neighborhood and surrounding structures from harm. There are a few things that I would like to highlight as we look ahead to a potentially deadly fire season once again.
We all remember the Woolsey Fire, a few years ago. At that time, LAFD captains told me that if Topanga Canyon started to burn, Woodland Hills would be next and we would need to evacuate. There were fire trucks keeping an eye on Warner Center to keep the area safe during the Woolsey Fire, and we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to prevent fires.
First, everyone who lives in a high fire “Red Flag” restriction area needs to prepare to defend their home by clearing brush as required under city ordinances. If you are unable to clear your own brush, please call my office for options to help you get dangerous dry vegetation away from your home to provide a defensible space.
In addition to removing brush, there are other small steps you can take to make it less likely that your home will catch fire. One is to cover your vents with mesh/screens to prevent small wind driven embers from getting into your roof. Put away flammable patio furniture, fabrics, other items that if an ember landed on them could easily catch fire and burn your home. We all need to do our part to ensure that our homes are as safe and fire-resistant as possible.
In our commercial and multi-family buildings, I have been pursuing stronger building codes to help those structures resist fires as well. Previously I’ve written in this publication about my efforts to expand the protections of Fire District One to more areas of the City with higher density. That work continues as we can make it more likely that our community can withstand a nearby brush fire by taking precautions and building smarter now.
I have also taken steps to prevent fires from being started by unsheltered individuals who set up camp in our fire zones creating dangerous conditions that could result from cooking or keeping warm in those areas. In 2019 I lead the City Council to update LA’s ordinance to allow LAPD or LAFD personnel to immediately order people to leave designated high fire hazard areas. While the solution to encampments in the hillsides is more housing and services, in the meantime our first responders do have the authority to require people to relocate their camps to an area outside the fire zones.
I appreciate the work of LAFD to stop fires once they get started. We can help them by preventing fires from starting in the first place. Please be mindful of fire conditions, high winds, high temperatures, that can turn a small fire into a large one very quickly. Whether by avoiding smoking on our hiking trails, minimizing outdoor fires for recreation and keeping our homes safe, we can help our firefighters save lives.
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